Ongoing Research

The Ncome River Museum and the Reconciliation Bridge from the vantage of the Blood River Museum. The bridge is blocked from both sides.

The Ncome River Museum and the Reconciliation Bridge from the vantage of the Blood River Museum. The bridge is blocked from both sides.

The Black and White Rainbow

In my first book, I argue that the aims of nation-building and democratization can contradict one another. Nation-building is premised on forgetting or diminishing difference, while democratic elections are often used as an occasion to signal difference to drive support for different parties. 

Using a case study of two groups in post-apartheid South Africa--isiZulu and Afrikaans speakers--this manuscript seeks to examine the tensions in terms of social memory and forgetting, and the various ways in which the aims of nation-building and democratization work together and at odds with one another.  This research is based on 12 months of fieldwork in South Africa funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The cause of Farm Murders in South Africa, an issue mostly raised by white Afrikaans-speakers, has been taken up as a cause by activists in the US, Canada and Australia

The cause of Farm Murders in South Africa, an issue mostly raised by white Afrikaans-speakers, has been taken up as a cause by activists in the US, Canada and Australia

Activists' Portrayal of Violence

Under what circumstances do cases of extreme violence become politically useful for self-defined victim populations? Drawing on Fujii’s work on extra-lethal violence and utilizing the case of farm murders in South Africa, this paper argues that there is a political utility in violence not only for perpetrating populations, but also for self-identified victims and their sympathizers. Organizations representing those who perceive themselves to be connected to the victims of such violence—white, mostly rural, and largely conservative South Africans—stand to benefit from focusing on the brutality of such violence. Such groups leverage key cases of violence through continual reference to them, to activate threat perceptions among sympathetic audiences. The result is a mosaic of trauma that belies the statistical reality of declining crime rates, relative security of white landowners, and corresponding infrequency of such incidents. These findings have implications for the behaviors of right-wing groups elsewhere, especially around issues of immigration.

Bowling leagues aren't the most relevant measures for understanding social capital in diverse societies.

Bowling leagues aren't the most relevant measures for understanding social capital in diverse societies.

Social Trust at the Individual Level

Research on social capital formation posits that iterated interactions within associative organizations in societies’ increases mutual trust, norms of reciprocity, and altruistic tendencies, which in turn increases social goods like political cooperation and government responsiveness. However, such research assumes that only the popularity of such associative organizations, that too of the type that act as bridges between social groups rather than bonding within them, demonstrate levels of social capital. We problematize this assumption to argue that the ratio of ‘checkpoints’ where individuals are required to present proofs to make social and economic transactions, and ‘trustpoints’ where such proofs are not required, can also demonstrate the presence of social capital. Moreover, we argue that the relative unevenness of social capital among ascriptive groups can be measured by “fastlanes” that differentially treat individuals based on identity. By providing a less context specific measurement than associative organizations, our theory provides a more general measure of social capital and one that shows how social capital can be measured at the individual level.